Quick Hit: Am I The Only One Who Believes It Won’t Be The End of The World If They Don’t Show That Tebow Commercial During The Super Bowl?

It’s that time of year again.  The Super Bowl is upon us, and you know what that means:  Time for all of America to choose which side they will be on.

Of course.  New Orleans or Indianapolis, right?

Uh…not exactly.  The burning question this week is:  Are you with the pro-life crowd who wants that Tim Tebow commercial to be shown during the Super Bowl, or are you with the pro-abortion forces who want to keep that commercial off the air?

Back when I was in college (the first time around), my dorm put on a “Stupid Human Tricks” event, modeled after the recurring “Stupid Human Tricks” feature on David Letterman in which people get up and showcase unusual talents.  For those of you who have never seen it, here is a sample of what “Stupid Human Tricks” is like:

My roommate at the time thought about participating in this event.  His “Stupid Human Trick” was going to be giving a speech entitled “Religion as a Social Institution”, part of a speech which he had given at a literary society that he and I were actively involved in.

Can you imagine what it would have been like and how it would have gone over if he had attempted to give such a speech at such an event?  Heads up:  It would not have been very good.  (Fortunately, I was able to talk him out of this.)

That is what I think it would be like if they air that Tebow commercial during the Super Bowl this week.

The Super Bowl is a football game.  People who watch the Super Bowl are thinking about football, beer, hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, or whatever food they happen to have on hand (gumbo and/or jambalaya if they are from Louisiana).  They are not thinking about politics.  They are not in a mood to be thinking about politics.  They are there to eat good food, watch a good football game, have a good time with friends, and cheer for whichever team they have chosen as their favorite.  They are not expecting to be asked to choose their side in some super-contentious political issue.  (And yes, I feel the same way about the Obama commercials that aired during the Super Bowl two years ago:  They were a very bad idea.)

Yes, I am just as pro-life as the next person, and I believe just as heartily that the pro-life message needs to be spread.  But PLEASE:  Not during the Super Bowl.  Let people have their fun and enjoy the game.  Save it for another day.

Pat Kyle: A Lutheran Take on Confession

Today I have written enough for a full-length post that could stand alone in and of itself.  I don’t normally do this when I am linking to material from other people’s blogs, but the issue of confession and how it is done in the Lutheran church is one that lands pretty heavily with me, particularly in light of what we are talking about right now in my church.

My church is currently in the middle of a sermon series entitled “Taking Responsibility for Your Life”, which is all about…well, exactly what it sounds like.  This week the message dealt with the issue of when it is time to stop praying and start doing the very thing that you have been praying about.

Today I would like to direct your attention to a couple of posts from blogger Pat Kyle of New Reformation Press which deal with this issue, specifically as it relates to confession of sin.  Kyle is a Lutheran giving the Lutheran take on confession–which, believe it or not, actually makes sense to me.  His posts are entitled “How the Confession of My Sins Kept Me in the Church”.  (Part 1) (Part 2)

Part 1 deals with corporate confession of sin during the church service.  This is how the Lutheran church service begins:

Pastor: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Congregation: Amen.

Pastor: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Congregation: But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

After a period of silence, the Pastor continued: Let us then confess our sins to God our Father.

Congregation: Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Holy Name.

Pastor: Almighty God has given his Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all of your sins. As a called and ordained servant of the Word, I therefore forgive you all of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Congregation: Amen.

Imagine a church service where this is the very first thing that happens, right out of the chute.  No announcements.  No words of welcome.  No popular song, funny skit, or video to lead off the service.  Instead, you just jump into this thing right from the giddy-up.  Now imagine a room with a few hundred–perhaps even a thousand or a couple of thousand–people reciting this thing in perfect unison.  Imagine how powerful that would be.

And how Gospel-centered.  We evangelicals talk a good game when it comes to the idea of confession–“confess your sins, one to another” and “God is faithful and just to forgive us” and other such buzzwords–but our practice of confession is anything but Gospel-centered.  Any confession of the “big sins” (sex outside of marriage, drinking, drugs, stealing, etc.) is a sure ticket to ostracization from the community of believers.  We talk about grace, but our talk of grace is always watered down with warnings about “cheap grace” and possible abuses. Continue reading “Pat Kyle: A Lutheran Take on Confession”

Revenge of the Peanut Butter Moron

Seems there was a little excitement at last week’s Georgia-Tennessee basketball game.  Apparently some kid got the bright idea to cover himself with–get this–peanut butter.  Why?  you may ask.  Maybe he needed something to snack on during the game?  Maybe he was pledging a fraternity?  Or maybe he was just a moron?  Well, the answer quickly became apparent as the game ended and he came rushing out onto the court.  The security guards just let him go; it wasn’t worth it to them to get all gooey and icky trying to restrain him.  You can read all about what happened here, courtesy of the good people over at Deadspin.com.

Apparently somebody out there has WAY too much time on their hands.

The Monday Melange 01.25.10: Todd Grantham, PETA, Lane Kiffin

Congrats to the Aints on making the Super Bowl.

–Todd Grantham is now the third highest-paid defensive coordinator in all of college football.  In actuality, he is the highest-paid defensive coordinator who is not the coach-in-waiting (Will Muschamp) or the coach’s dad (Monte Kiffin).

–I like Todd Grantham.  It remains to be seen what he will be doing in two years time, but for now I am impressed.  At the introductory press conference he spoke of implementing an “aggressive, physical, attacking style defense that offenses will not look forward to playing against”.  Those are just words at this point, but to hear those words from our incoming DC does my heart hella good.

This church’s response to a person living in their community who called in with a legitimate need:  Epic fail.  If “Lee” had called your church, would they have done better?  I sure hope so.

–My fellow evangelicals:  We have gotten it all wrong on the subject of confession.  This business about confessing your sins only to God?  This is one area where we definitely need to stop praying and start doing.  This post landed pretty heavily with me, especially in light of what we talked about at my church this week.  I will be back later in the week with more at-length comments on this.

–Here’s a whole new reason for you to hate PETA:  Their president just came out with a statement defending Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards, who has been suspended indefinitely for playing with a firearm in the locker room.  Why?  Because Arenas did an anti-fur ad for them back in the day.  And this comes to you from the exact same organization that wanted Georgia to get an animatronic replacement for Uga and lambasted Manu Ginobili for swatting a bat out of midair during a basketball game.  If this does not show you just how hypocritical the PETA peeps are, I don’t know what will.

–PETA:  A bunch of mindless jerks who will be first against the wall when the revolution comes.

–For those of you who never saw this, here is the video of Manu Ginobili swatting the bat out of the air:

–Lane Kiffin:  A mindless jerk who will be first against the wall when the revolution comes.

Les Miserables 34: Waterloo

At this point, all of the action relating to Fantine has been resolved.  Fantine is dead, the good mayor Madeleine has been outed and arrested as Jean Valjean, Valjean has busted out of jail and is now en route toward Paris, presumably to fetch Fantine’s daughter Cosette who is still in the Thenardiers’ care.  Cosette’s fate is still up in the air, as is Valjean’s, but that will be dealt with in the next section of the story.

But before getting to any of that, Victor Hugo takes a pause and takes us back to 1815 for a 58-page, blow-by-blow account of the battle of Waterloo.  He eases into it by starting with the account of a traveler walking along the road past the field of Waterloo on a calm, peaceful day, some fifty-plus years after the battle took place.  By following this traveler we reach Hougomont, where it all began.

Here Victor Hugo transitions into an account of the ugly struggle at the farm of Hougomont.  Napoleon began the battle of Waterloo by attempting to take this farm, with the idea of drawing off several of the English batallions away from where the principal action would be.  But the English resistance at Hougomont was very strong, and this did not make too much of a dent in the English resources.  From here the action shifted toward the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean, which was a slight rise at the top of a large plain next to Hougomont.  At around 4 PM that day, Napoleon attempted to charge the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean.  Unfortunately for him, his charge was thwarted by the sunken road of Ohain, a road which cut right across the battlefield and which formed a trench which was impossible to see until you were right up on it and it was too late to do anything about it.  Lots of horsemen were lost from falling into this trench.

Despite everything, the battle was going very well for Napoleon.  But then the Prussians showed up to help the English, and it was all over.

That is a rough idea of how the battle of Waterloo went.  But what is this account doing in the middle of our story?  Why does Victor Hugo take a 58-page timeout to tell us about Waterloo?  Here are some thoughts about this section of the story: Continue reading “Les Miserables 34: Waterloo”

Book Review: Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers

Malcolm Gladwell, a writer and essayist for The New Yorker magazine, is best known for The Tipping Point, in which he challenged our most deeply held assumptions about how the world works and showed us that seemingly little things can make a very big difference.  In his follow-up, Blink, he challenged our dearest notions about thought itself and showed that in many situations it only takes a very short time–the blink of an eye, if you will–to gather all of the information necessary to make good decisions.

In Outliers, Gladwell is at it again.  This time he challenges our most deeply-held beliefs about success–namely that it is almost exclusively the result of factors within an individual, such as innate talent or drive or motivation.  External factors have a lot to do with success–much more than we are willing to admit.

Gladwell starts off with the example of Canadian junior league hockey.  Now, hockey is the national pastime in Canada and their youth league system is set up to make sure that the best of the best will rise to the top.  Right?  Well…it’s a little more complicated than that.  If you look at the players at the very top of the junior league system, the ones who will in all likelihood go on to play professional hockey, you will find that a disproportionate majority have birthdays in January, February, and March.  It would seem that there is some sort of astrological phenomenon at work where prospective hockey players with birthdays in these three months are blessed with unusually prodigious amounts of talent.  But the causes of this phenomenon are actually more man-made than that.  Children are eligible to start junior-league hockey at age 9, and the cutoff date is January 1.  Because of this, children with birthdays in the months immediately after the cutoff date get to start earlier than children with birthdays in the months immediately before the cutoff date.  This results in a pronounced advantage for children with birthdays in January, February, or March–which only accumulates as these children move through the program and on to the higher levels of competition.

It has been found, Gladwell notes, that in order to attain mastery of any skill–whether a sport, a musical instrument, a game, an artistic discipline, or a profession–one must spend at least 10,000 hours practicing this skill.  This is true regardless of one’s level of innate talent, ambition, drive, motivation, or whatever.  Gladwell gives the examples of the Beatles–who, because they happened to have the opportunity to go to Liverpool and were in a position where they had to perform in order to make a living, were able to log the requisite 10,000 hours of musical performance–and Bill Gates, who, because of where he went to school, the connections that this school and its parents had, and the time during which he was growing up, was able to log the 10,000 hours necessary to attain mastery of computer programming.

All of this goes to show that external factors, such as place and time of birth, play a large role in the phenomenon of success–a much bigger role than we are accustomed to giving them credit for.

Gladwell presents ideas which force us to think in new ways about things we thought we understood.  He is an excellent storyteller and his writing is very compelling; once you pick up one of his works you will find it very hard to put down.  If you are prepared to call into question everything you thought you knew about success and about what it takes to be successful, then I strongly recommend Outliers.

The Monday Melange 01.18.10: Lane Kiffin, George Bush

–Okay, so Lane Kiffin couldn’t handle the heat in the SEC, now he is bolting for Southern Cal.  Coward.

–Lane Kiffin got to be coach at Tennessee by losing 15 of 20 games with the Oakland Raiders, and now he has gotten to be coach at Southern Cal by going 7-6 at Tennessee.  At this rate, he is only an 8-5 season at Southern Cal away from coaching Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.  Enjoy this smattering of sportswriters the world over piling onto Lane Kiffin, courtesy of AJC sports columnist Jeff Schultz.

–Given what we have seen of Lane Kiffin, California is definitely a more fitting place for him.

–In a couple of years, Tennessee will probably realize that they got the better end of this deal.  With Lane Kiffin stepping into the mess that Pete Carroll created at Southern Cal, and God knows what will happen on Lane Kiffin’s watch, Tennessee got off easy by only having to deal with Kiffin for one year.

–Here is the difference between Mark Richt and Paul Johnson:  It took Mark Richt 5 years and a lackluster 7-5 record for him to get rid of Willie Martinez.  Paul Johnson, on the other hand, did not wait to get rid of Dave Wommack until the defensive problems compromised his ability to win games.

–So Georgia finally has a new defensive coordinator.  I am sure that this Todd Grantham guy will be good–certainly an improvement over Willie Martinez.  (I would hope so, what with his being a Nick Saban disciple.)  It was a very messy process to find him, but in a couple of years that won’t matter.  All that will matter is whether or not his defenses play better than Willie Martinez’s and are able to help Georgia win championships.

–Twice this year, LSU has gotten punked because of shitty clock management by Les Miles in the final minutes of games.  That is one aspect of his program that he is definitely going to have to change, or else he will find himself out of a job in the very near present future.

–Steve Spurrier is a prick and Nick Saban is a dweeb, but at least they can coach.  Lane Kiffin is an ignorant and loudmouthed doofus, and we still don’t know if he can coach a lick.

–So the elder George Bush was dining at a Pizza Hut in Houston, and got taken to task by some pinhead because of the New World Order thing.

Don’t know that I would agree with Bill O’Reilly that this is threatening, but it is definitely comical to think that George Bush is capable of masterminding the New World Order from inside a Pizza Hut.

–Those of you who come over here in search of information on the Texas A&M defensive coordinator situation:  As soon as I know something, I will let you know.

–And the high today in Amundsen-Scott Station, Antarctica, is forecast to be a balmy -4 degrees.

Les Miserables 33: Counter-Stroke

Jean Valjean (aka Father Madeleine) has just finished testifying in Arras at the trial of Champmathieu.  Champmathieu was arrested on suspicion of being Jean Valjean but was released when Father Madeleine confessed to being the real Jean Valjean.  We will breeze through what happens next, but there are a couple of things that I want to pause and camp out on.

After Valjean (and from here on out we will refer to him as Valjean and not Madeleine) finished up in Arras, he hotfooted it back to MSM and went to visit Fantine at the hospital.  Javert found him at Fantine’s bedside and arrested him, in a poignant scene where Fantine dies from the shock of seeing Javert haul him away.  But Valjean busted out of the city jail and was able to buy a couple of days’ time to tie things up before going away to prison for real. Continue reading “Les Miserables 33: Counter-Stroke”